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Referees empowered to act against racism

UEFA's Executive Committee has approved guidelines for match officials to deal with racist incidents in stadiums, which will give referees the power to abandon matches in serious cases.

Referees will abandon matches in the event of extreme and persistent racist incidents
Referees will abandon matches in the event of extreme and persistent racist incidents ©Getty Images

UEFA's Executive Committee has approved guidelines for match officials to deal with serious racist incidents in stadiums.

Strong sanction
The decision, made by the Executive Committee at its two-day meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, means in effect that if there are incidents of sufficient magnitude and intensity, the referee will apply Law 5 of the Laws of the Game in particular. First of all, the match will be stopped and announcements will be made. Eventually, if the racist behaviour does not cease, the referee has the power to abandon the match.

Immediate effect
"This sends out a strong signal, and also a very practical signal that in terms of UEFA matches, these guidelines will be enforced," said UEFA General Secretary David Taylor. The guidelines come into force immediately in all UEFA competitions.

'Zero tolerance'
"Our policy on racism is one of zero tolerance," said UEFA President Michel Platini. "It was necessary to give the pitch people the means to do something, and we have determined the parameters and lines of conduct, whereby in important cases of racist behaviour in a stadium, a referee must stop the match."

Official guidelines
A three-step procedure is involved in the guidelines. If the referee becomes aware of serious racist behaviour, or is informed of it by the fourth official, he shall, as a first step, in application of Law 5 of the Laws of the Game, stop the game and ask for an announcement to be made over the public address system requesting the public to immediately stop such racist behaviour. As a second step, if the racist behaviour does not cease once the game has restarted, the referee shall suspend the match for a reasonable period of time, for example five to ten minutes, and request the teams go to the dressing rooms. A further announcement shall be made over the public address system to the public.

Final response
As a third and final step, if the racist behaviour does not cease after the game has restarted, the referee shall definitively abandon the match as a last resort. The UEFA delegate will assist the referee, through the fourth official, in determining whether the racist behaviour has ceased, and any decision to abandon the match will only be taken after all other possible measures have been implemented and the impact of abandoning the match on the security of the players and public has been assessed. UEFA said that the full and detailed guidelines will be made available shortly.

Authority figures
Mr Platini said: "There are people of authority [at a UEFA match], such as the referee and match delegate who can consult before deciding to temporarily suspend a match for five or 10 minutes, in agreement with officials responsible for security – and from then, if the atmosphere remains negative, the match must be stopped." Subsequently, the case would be referred to the UEFA disciplinary authorities.